Corrosive Conditions

Tackling Extreme Conditions in the Subsea

Victaulic Brings Santa Barbara Desalination Facility Back Online in Record Time

  • Innovative Solution Solves Challenge of Missing Subsea Pipe 2,500 Feet Offshore and 50 Feet Underwater
  • Facility Now Supplies 30% of the City’s Water Supply Demand

Against the backdrop of severe drought conditions across California, the city of Santa Barbara faced an extreme challenge: how to bring its Charles E. Meyer Desalination Plant back online after nearly two decades in standby mode, against a tight timeline along with budget and environmental constraints.

The project was further complicated by the discovery that an eight-foot section of the 36-inch subsea intake line, located 2,500 feet from the shore and under 50 feet of water, was missing. The pipe was removed when the plant was placed in standby mode in 1992.

With the intake pipe in need of repair before the project could proceed, the clock was ticking with the team having just six weeks to find a solution.

Engineers and contractors first considered installing an unrestrained non-Victaulic coupling to rejoin the missing section, which would require anchoring it to the ocean floor to restrain the pulling forces created by the 80 pounds per square inch (PSI) underwater pumps. However, they decided against this approach because it would require concrete thrust blocks to be poured underwater in an environmentally sensitive area, which would add several weeks to the already tight schedule.

Experts turned to Victaulic for an ingenious solution: a grooved high density-polyethylene (HDPE) pipe with a specialized Style 908 coupling specifically designed to quickly join HDPE pipe and eliminate the need for fusing.

Until then, not many engineers had used a grooved HDPE pipe for abrasive intakes, especially at desalination plants, given the corrosive nature of abrasive on metal used in traditional joining methods. The Victaulic approach promised an ideal solution for the extreme, underwater environment. The products offered extreme durability – rugged enough to withstand the physically demanding operating conditions including corrosion risk. The products provided reliability for the life of the system, in this case 100 years. The benefits of greater durability and reliability were all gained while dramatically speeding installation times, an approach that was 10 times faster than other the alternative fusion weld.